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A letter to the parents of my students

February 23, 2010

You have probably been told (or sold on the idea) that I have a degree in teaching and/or have a lot of experience with teaching.  I am sorry that you have been mislead.

You all are a trip, you know that?  I hope that all of your complaining, whining and insistence on how your children should be taught comes from only the greatest love you have for them.  Cause I have about reached the end of my rope with you.  We have three days left in this semester and what news do I hear today?  You are concerned that your child won’t reach the end of the workbook, and so you want to make sure we reach the end by Friday.  Okay, fine, I will do that.  I will breeze through the remaining vocabulary lessons and I can guarantee most of your children will not retain the words or sounds we learn.  But you want us to finish the book, right?  That’s the important part.  I realize you are paying lots of money for us to teach your children, I realize that you’ve paid for said workbooks, but seriously!  You’re missing out on the big picture here.  Also.  Don’t complain about not finishing the book when I spend precious class time copying worksheets for your child who forgot his/her workbook at home.

Most of you do not speak a word of English.  I’m assuming most of you have never even attempted to learn.  It’s a BLOODY HARD language to learn and you’ve stuck your children right in the thick of it.  In reality, it’s really cool that you have the resources and opportunity to give that gift to your children.  It’s not cool when they go to school for most of the day and then go a English Hogwan (private school) and are expected to keep learning, keep sitting in chairs, keep proving themselves.  Cause that’s what it sure as hell feels like.  And so when your precious children are tired and don’t do so well at learning their words or bomb a test, you blame the most likely candidate.  Their Korean (or foreign) English teacher!  Obviously!  Not yourself when you put such high expectations on your child, or your child who doesn’t know to read or has no work ethic.  (Seriously, did I just say that a 10 year old child has no work ethic?)  I have no idea what education your children have had before they came to me.  I can guess though.  Your child can’t really trick me into thinking they can read; I can see right through ’em.  The other day I spent time teaching my kids how to say Philippines.  Philippines. PH = F.  Drilled that into their heads.  The F sound is so unbelievably hard for Koreans to make.  It seemed slightly ridiculous for me to be teaching this crazy hard word when half of them can’t even read (read = sounding out new words) simple words.  Insert dislike for the workbook creators.

We’ve gotta keep all the kids on the same page.  We’ve got to hold back the really bright ones, and push the slower ones beyond their limits.  Awhile back I had a little “meeting” with my boss and a Korean teacher. I was told that some of the parents of my kids were friends and somehow got to talking about what pages their kids were on in their workbooks.  Chincha?  (Really?)  Of all things to talk about.  They were pissed that their kids were on different pages.  Koreans are very concerned about “the group”.  Belonging in a group.  So that’s where the holding back and pushing ahead teaching method came into play.  Cool.  For real though…how do you an advance an entire group of students who are all on different levels?!  It kind of blows my mind that teachers have been doing this for years, cause I can’t figure it out.  Help, please.

I love your kids.  I really do; I can about them so much.  That’s why I will be sticking my year out as frustrating as I’m thinking it’s going to be.  Maybe that’s why I’m sometimes too hard on them?   I care about them too much? Sometimes I get frustrated too easily and take it out on them and I’m sorry for that.  It kills me that I do that.  I’m actually crying right now cause I hate who I become in the classroom at times.  Really really hate myself.  Granted, some of your kids are crazy and drive me up the wall, but most of them are good kids.  Good kids who are learning a bloody hard language at the age of nine or ten.  Who am I to get angry with them when they can’t remember how to say “theater” or follow my directions which are given in English?  How unfair is that.

So we both should try to work on some things, okay?


Frustrated but invested teacher

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ruth permalink
    February 26, 2010 1:25 am

    What a difficult place to be! Just know that even teachers who have been teaching for millions of years never completely figure this out (so I’ve heard). 🙂 As a new teacher myself, I haven’t even begun to fathom how it works!

    One thought though – have you tried modifying the same assignment for like 3 different levels to all complete at the same time in class? It takes way more time in the planning department, but sometimes makes it all work out better in the end. Just split the kids into groups and give them similar, but slightly different assignments (add a more complicated writing assignment or have them interview each other). If you do it every day, they’ll definitely catch on to the tracking idea…but if it’s only every once in a while, it gives all of them a chance to feel like they can go at their own speed sometimes.

    I’m praying for you, Bess! I’ve heard that the Korean education system is especially brutal…so I’m sure you’re doing an amazing job even though it’s frustrating!

  2. February 27, 2010 4:51 am

    Oh, Bess. I’m so sorry. This sounds very frustrating and the lack of affirmation from the parents stinks. So, if they won’t say it, I will.


    Thinking of you, dearie:-).

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